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Some call i-dosing a drug substitute, while others say binaural beats fall flat

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The Washington Post's Monica Hesse explains how people are claiming to get high from listening to specially-engineered sounds.

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dangerous gateway drug that will lead your children to a sordid life of addiction? Or . . . New Age Enya soundtrack?!

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Teens, in pursuit of their inalienable right to try to get high off of anything that can be ingested, digested or harvested, are apparently now trying to get high off of MP3s. Put that in your PC and smoke it. But first, give it a trendy name.

Call it "i-dosing."

The adolescents can be seen on YouTube, wearing headphones, listening to pulsing soundtracks that supposedly simulate the effects of recreational drugs. They giggle. They gyrate. They flutter their hands in front of their faces.

"Should I try this?" writes one commenter, "Sasha," in response to a video of a boy i-dosing on a soundtrack called "Gates of Hades." So far she's only tried softer i-dosing options, such as digital "marijuana," and she wants to know if she can handle the more intense "Hades" experience.

Parents, in pursuit of their inalienable right to wonder what is happening to kids today, are concerned. Though i-dosing has been around for several years -- known by various terms, such as "digital drugs" -- a March incident in Oklahoma prompted a new wave of concern. The Mustang public school district learned that kids were i-dosing and sent a letter home warning parents to be on the alert. Since then, tech blogs and media outlets have debated the riskiness of the practice, and the software used for playing one company's i-doses was downloaded nearly 29,000 times last week -- more than quadruple what it was a few weeks ago.

What does the National Institute on Drug Abuse have to say?

"At this time, we are aware of no scientific data on this phenomenon," reads a statement, "so NIDA cannot establish the validity of the claim that you can get high listening to these sounds."

Hmmm.

* * *

The center of this discussion is I-Doser.com, a Web site that touts itself as "The industry leader in . . . audio doses to powerfully alter your mood." There are other sites like it, though none quite so provocative.

On I-Doser, the digital drugs -- purchased by downloading free software and clicking on individual tracks -- are represented through stock art. "Acid" is a blurred face; "Heroin" is a Fiona Apple look-alike chewing on her own hair.


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